Students deserve affordable, local housing

In case you haven’t looked for a place to live in this city recently, here’s a nugget of obvious information: this city sucks for house hunting.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse for renters, San Francisco finds itself embroiled in a heated debate over a proposed amendment that would allow more tenancy in common (TIC) owners to convert their units into condos than the city currently allows per year.

TIC agreements are when a group of tenants in the same building own their units individually, but get financing under the same mortgage. The debate has become highly polarized: condo conversion advocates vs. those arguing for rent control, but neither cause has the best interests of students in mind.

Condo conversion allows for the eviction of tenants one year after conversion of the units into condos, removing those precious units from the rental market. Rent control allows for only moderate rent-increases every year. This benefits long-time renters who have lived in the same unit for years.

According to SF State’s Data Book, about half of SF State students did not have residency in the Bay Area upon enrollment in 2012. This means about 15,000 SF State students must find housing during the school year. Student housing takes about 3,000 of those. The other 12,000 are left to fend for themselves in San Francisco’s rental market (or give up and live in Daly City).

Last year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition deemed San Francisco the most expensive city for renters. The rental market in San Francisco is expensive, competitive and shrinking fast. Students have been forced to live like sardines, pay staggering rents or move outside the city.

Students face more difficulties than your average renter. We have not been blessed with technology boom salaries, flawless credit reports, or the benefits of rent control (we move around and change roommates from year-to-year). We have been stigmatized as loud, messy, bong-hitting, dub-stepping, roof-hopping vagrants — a landlord’s nightmare.

What does this mean for you? You probably live in a dank one bedroom apartment with two roommates in Parkmerced. One isn’t on the lease, and the other unfortunately brings home his irritating girlfriend every other night. Is this really your only option?

You need a new living situation, so you — brave soul, venture out into San Francisco’s rental market (aka: open your internet browser to Craigslist).

Students deserve affordable, local housing. There is an option for these 12,000 to commute, but commuting takes time and money — something we are all already short of. Local housing encourages student community and involvement on campus.

Luckily, neighborhoods local to SF State haven’t gone trendy and had rents skyrocket like others in San Francisco. Still, local neighborhoods aren’t unfazed. According to Curbed SF, the four closest major neighborhoods (minus St. Francis Wood/West of Twin Peaks area) to SF State have increased average rent by at least 9 percent from 2011-12.

There should be an incentive program for landlords to keep these units in local neighborhoods at reasonable prices in a shrinking rental market. It is in the city’s interest to keep recently graduated SF State students in their already established communities and to provide them with local jobs that pay enough to actually afford a place within city limits. A tax break for recent graduates would allow students to transition easier from college to the workplace.

University housing also does not do much to alleviate student renter’s problems either. Providing housing for 3,000 of the 12,000 who need places to live is insufficient. If the administration really wants to shed the label of “commuter campus” they should be helping students forge bonds with the local community.

Living in neighborhoods local to SF State doesn’t only benefit the University from increased involvement in campus, and students without the burden of commuting, but benefits those local communities with young, vibrant, active members. College towns with student residents gain from the business, involvement, and volunteerism of local students. Students don’t just want to eat, and sleep in the communities they live, but care for them. Therefore, it is in all of our best interests, as a city and a university, to aid student renters.

A portion of this article has been changed to clarify the rules regarding eviction of tenants after condo conversion.

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  • Hi,
    I’d like to chat with the writer(s) of this piece. I run the SF Housing Action Coalition, a group that works on transit-oriented development and affordable housing. We’re keenly interested in the topic of student housing.

    While we have no formal position on TIC conversions and focus instead on new production, your piece contains a false statement. TICs that are trying to use the proposed conversion ordinance to convert to condos would NOT be able to if they had evicted tenants.

    Also, are you aware that the City passed 2 ordinances we wrote that are intended to create incentives for the production of new student housing?

    Tim Colen, Executive Director
    SFHAC